It’s often said that home is where the heart is. For USF hockey, that has been the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex for the past three seasons, until now.
With the opening of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, USF hockey has a new home and a convenient 15-minute drive from campus — as opposed to a 45-minute haul to Ellenton.
The Bulls broke in their new ice Friday night against the University of Florida. There wasn’t an empty seat in the building, as the crowd was loud and rowdy throughout; an experience USF players haven’t been used to at a home game.
USF went on to notch an 8-2 victory, the teams’ largest win of the season. Senior Huw Baveystock said the fans played a key factor to the Bulls success Friday night.
“It meant even more to see so many people come out and support, because we’re making a push for regionals,” Baveystock said. “We really needed that win yesterday and the crowd certainly helped in showing their support.”
Baveystock doesn’t believe Friday night’s crowd was a one-time fluke, either. He predicted that while playing at their new rink, the Bulls can expect the same amount of support, and success for years to come.
“I’m really excited for the future of the hockey program here,” Baveystock said. “I’m excited for the young guys who will get to have the experience of playing in front of that crowd, in that arena, for the next three years.”
One of those young guys is freshman Wes Moon. Playing in his first season with the Ice Bulls, Moon said that one of the main reasons he decided to join the team this year was because of the teams’ move to Florida Hospital Center Ice.
“I live like 10 minutes away from the new arena,” Moon said. “That was one of the reasons I joined this semester, is because of the new rink opening. The drive to Ellenton was a hike and a half.”
Moon isn’t the only player who sees the new rinks’ close proximity to campus as a positive. Before the move, team captain Danny Hoeflich used to have an issue with getting his players to practice consistently.
“It was a pain,” Hoeflich said. “We had some guys not able to make it practice some days because of the long drive, and it got pretty annoying.”
Now that all practices are held a short drive away from campus, it’s been easier on the players, and their busy schedules, balancing school and hockey. Hoeflich said the convenience of the shorter drive has already had a positive effect on players’ participation.
“I think people are more than happy now to come out to practice. We’ve timed it out, and now we get over an hour and a half of the night back,” Hoeflich said.
Looking to build on the success of their first game at their new home, the Bulls will be back in action at Florida Hospital Center Ice on Friday for the SCHC tournament. Admission is free.